Monday, January 12, 2009

Day Six!

Today was quite a day. It all started when I walked out of the apartments and noticed that it was snowing. Which is not a problem for me being that I am born and raised in Minnesota and have lived in the blowing lands of Iowa for the past few years.

I spent the morning trying to figure out some new software that were were testing out with our 10th grade class. We had them post their memoirs on their individual wikispaces. Then Kristin and I over the weekend used Diigo to post comments on their wikispaces. When I got to work this morning Kristin and I were trying to figure out how we were going to get the students to view the comments. After a while of clicking through security features and logging in passwords we thought we had a solution at hand, but alas once we actually got to class the solution still did not work. At some point we will figure all the features out about Diigo, and how to allow the students to see it, but we just needed to do a little more preparation work it I guess. In the end what it came down to was recognizing what it means to literally be "at the bleeding edge of technology" as a favorite technology director at Wartburg told me once. We were definitely there during third hour. All the hard work that went into commenting on their wikispaces and then not figuring out the technology in time to use it in class. Tomorrow is another day and hopefully we will figure it out then so that the students will receive the feedback that we left them.

Besides the whole technology thing, which at times was really frustrating, I actually taught that class for the first time. It was a lesson on showing emotion rather than telling it. I felt that the students really understood the material and learned from what I lectured on and gave them examples about. It was nice to work into another prep, more responsibility, and more students. I look forward to the challenge tomorrow and the continuing challenge of teaching yet another group of students.

Forth hour I went to Anne's senior British Literature class. This period they spent the entire time setting up their wikispaces to complete the next unit - their interview / career project. When reflecting on the experience I wonder, where in the objectives of the curriculum or the state standards does it say "Have your students publish their work on a wikispace." To my knowledge, at least in the standards that I have seen, it does not say that. But then I consider the purpose of the technology is to make the content real to the students, to allow them to publish to a wider audience, and to increase engagement - among other things of course. If AHS has the technology, because so many schools do not, we should use it. Anne and Kristin, both of my cooperating teachers are doing just that in their classrooms. I just get the privilege of working with them on a regular basis. If you don't know what a wikispace is I encourage you to check it out at this link.

Fifth period I went to Kristin's American Literature class and taught a refined version of my lesson in English 10, meaning that today I taught a portion of three complete classes - the most I have ever done in my life. This was once again, a great class. I continually enjoy getting to know the students and interact with them on a regular basis. There is just something about getting to know and challenge individual students that makes me excited to go to work each day. These students are crafting an essay of place. To see a work evolve, change, and be refined by students is one of the most interesting processes I have ever seen in my life. Each students' thought process and individual thinking skills are different and interesting. I look forward to reading their essays and helping them improve them over the next few days. I blogged before about how I am amazed that teachers can move from structured time to totally off the cuff thinking. Well Kristin did that again today in her English 10 class. We were about to go onto another activity, after a short mini lesson by me, and she sensed that the students needed to talk about their writing. So she scraped what she was thinking and had the students move their chairs to face each other. Then from there she had a discussion with them about what was going well with this project and what they actually needed help on. It was a great time to receive feedback from the students on how we were doing as teachers and to hear their own individual thoughts on the situation. Kristin and I are now going to alter the plans for the next few days based on the students' thoughts. Before the period ended though, Kristin gave some wonderful thoughts about memoirs and really inspired the students to do their best. It was, once again, nice to see a master teacher at work and to learn from her first hand.

Sixth period I had my fun, exciting, and world changing ninth graders. They were a handful today, as they are every day, but today we had some serious business to do. I blogged on Saturday about how I needed to take their topics that were the size of the world and reduce them down to the size of Colorado or Denver. Well, essentially I gave back their webs that I graded over the weekend and then we proceeded to go through each step one-by-one and revise as a group. I provided them with an example on the board and then we talked through each part of the assignment to literally "Change the World." It was tough keeping them on task and I still have to figure out how to allow students to be working across the room with a partner while I am assisting students on the other half of the room, but other than that I thought the lesson was successful. Towards the end of the lesson I displayed a little of that Kristin and Anne "off the top of my head" thinking by filling the last amount of space in class with a few questions that I thought brought the whole day to a close - Anne really liked that I did this too. I got the students to put away everything else and brought the topic front and center. I mentioned to them that writing this paper and truly changing the world is not an easy task, especially for a 9th grader, but that I know they can do it. I asked them if what we did today in class helped, and they all said it did. It's really nice to know that the last fifty-nine minutes you spent teaching them actually had a positive impact on their learning. It was great to hear, as a teacher, that things went well and that the students were happy. I am really excited for the rest of this week. I think together with the rest of the class we can truly change the world. We have some hard times ahead of us, as the students have not written more than one paragraph before, but we can overcome them together. With a teacher that is committed to going step-by-step and students that want to truly change the world I know that in the end we can and will reach our goal. My take away for the day Anne, is that on Friday it looked like to me that the train of learning was going a little off track, but with the lesson today and the students' feedback I really felt that today was a good day. I felt like the train got back on track and we are ready to move forward together.